You have to say the next line like “When I was a kid, I had to walk 5 miles to school, barefoot, uphill in the snow, both ways!” 

I adopted Media Center back around Windows XP when you had to either buy it prebuilt onto an OEM box or cheat and get the installation internally and build a machine that met the specs.  I continued to use it and enjoy the updates from Vista to Windows 7.  It’s my only DVR and with 2 Xboxes and a extender in the house, I satisfy the miser in me by not paying the cable company for a DVR box or multiple cable boxes. (I’m not going to point out the frivolity of having 3 TVs and more than one Xbox!)

Getting Media Center working on XP was… challenging… at times. Vista was a bit better.  Windows 7 was a snap… until the eagerly awaited introduction of the Ceton infiniTV 4 channel digital tuner.  Let’s just say that the early drivers for the Ceton and I did not get along.  We finally declared a truce last fall, just in time for the new season of shows and its been working like a champ ever since.

Besides normal TV recording, I’ve also rescued my kids’ DVD collection from death by 1000 scratches, sparing the tears and frustration of having to explain that, ‘No, you cant watch <misc princess movie> because you ruined the DVD and <misc happiest place on earth> put it back in the vault until you’re 15!’ by putting a copy on the Media Center and storing the disk out of toddler reach.

Needless to say, I’m entrenched in my Media Center ecosystem.

Now we get to Windows 8.  Unfortunately, Media Center was not modernized or updated for 8.  Which is a shame.  I’d love to see it push new features and updated interface (and use my Kinect for voice commands!)  As much as I love adopting Windows Version Next, if Media Center is not included in future versions I will run Windows 8 on this one machine until it looks and feels like Win95.  It’s an awesome feature with so much potential and some great fanboys (thegreenbutton peeps – helped so many times!) But I digress.  The first thing you may notice is that Windows 8 does not have Media Center included by default.  Don’t worry - If you have Windows 8 Pro you can get it as a Feature Pack:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/feature-packs

The best reason to jump on this now is – its Free! (until January)

The second best reason is that if you have any previously recorded shows, installing the Feature Pack is the lowest maintenance way of playing those shows again.  The other ways involve hunting for the right codecs or converting the files from .wtv ( or .dvr-ms) to AVI or MP4 format.

The third reason is under the hood performance improvements (file copy speeds, memory management and storage management and disk maintenance to name a quick few)

Finally – with my kids systems, Surface RT and work computers all at Windows 8, my Windows 7 machine just felt… old.

 

When you follow the link above and enter your request, you will have to wait almost 24 hours to get the Product key to install the Feature Pack.  That’s just a fair warning if you have a Phineas and Ferb marathon you’ve been requested to record that evening…  marked in crayon.. on your calendar…along with stick figures and schematics of what P&F are going to do today.

When you have the key, the directions on that page are pretty straight forward. (Start Screen, type Add Feature, run that option and add the key - done!)

The Ceton Beta (Windows 7 Sp1) driver installed with no issues, but you do need to select the Network Tuners to install. By default it is like you see below:

 

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I had read somewhere not to try it with Windows 8 yet, or that Network Tuner Wizard should be left at disabled, but I pushed ahead and set it to install.

Personal experience - once I have the tuner information populate in the Ceton diagnostic tool, the rest is a snap. If this is not populated, you need to work on that before Media Center will be happy:

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After Media Center is installed (if you have a digital turner) remember to navigate to Extras and run the Digital Cable Advisor.  I always forget this step on a new install. Doh!

 

To recap – The Windows 8 Media Center Checklist (w/ Ceton Digital Tuner) is:

1. Get the key (now, while its free!)

2. Install Windows 8

3. Add the Feature Pack

4. Install the Ceton drivers with the Network Tuner Wizard (Beta Windows 7 Sp1 is working for me) Reboot is recommended at this point. Check the Ceton Diagnostics to make sure the first two items are in the green:

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*Optional – on Windows 7 I noticed I have less problems with the Ceton if I set my Media Center system up with a static IP address.  If it is dynamic via DHCP I run into “No Tuners Found” every time my IP address changes. I suspect its something to do with the Network Bridge it uses.  Windows 8 currently doesn’t create a bridge, but I’ve set my system to static out of habit.

 

Windows 8: Not Bridged (yet?)

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5. Launch Media Center and buzz through the initial setup wizard with your preferences.

6. Run the Digital Cable Advisor from the Extras – Gallery.

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7. Run the Network Tuner Wizard from the Ceton menu and select to Setup (*missing here because I RDP’d to get the screenshot – but you should see the Ceton infiniTV menu if everything installed right):

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8. At the end of the Wizard it will prompt you to launch the TV Setup Wizard that’s native to Media Center.  Once that completes, you’re set!

Excluding the wait for the key, my Sunday afternoon clean install to recording ‘Once Upon a Time’ took less than an hour.  Definitely my best install experience yet.

 

Some minor extras:

1. If you have a smaller hard drive (I have a 60G SSD drive, which requires some careful planning) as your C:\ drive you can change the Recorded TV section to another drive here:

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2. If you have an extensive list of TV recordings on Windows 7 Media Center, there are some apps out there that will backup and restore those settings for you.  I have not used them, but know a few friends that have had success with them.

3. There is a Windows 8 App that was written to allow you to access recorded Media Center shows on Windows 8 RT called MediaSurge.  I hate to mention it because I don’t have it working yet…. But it’s a cool possibility and I’ll post more when I get it running.